Skip to content

An Interview with Dr. Sarah Lubik on Qualifying and Disqualifying Business Ideas, Advice to Students, and Concluding Thoughts (Part Six)


Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2019/09/22


Dr. Sarah Lubik is the Director of Entrepreneurship, SFU Co-Champion, Technology Entrepreneurships Lecturer, Entrepreneurship & Innovation Concentration Coordinator, Innovation and Entrepreneurship. She discusses: qualifying or disqualifying a business idea; advice to impart to students; and final feelings and thoughts.

Keywords: Canada, Hariri, Industry, Kurzweil, Sarah Lubik, technology.

An Interview with Dr. Sarah Lubik on Qualifying and Disqualifying Business Ideas, Advice to Students, and Concluding Thoughts: Director of Entrepreneurship, SFU Co-Champion, Technology Entrepreneurships Lecturer, Entrepreneurship & InnovationConcentration Coordinator, Innovation and Entrepreneurship (Part Six)[1],[2]

*Please see the footnotes, bibliography, and citation style listing after the interview.*

1. Scott Douglas Jacobsen: These are more or less obscure to someone that doesn’t have their ear to the ground as you do with your position. I want to also go back to the undergraduate students.

When you’re working with them, they come with an idea. What’s the process that you’re running through your mind to qualify or disqualify a particular idea, whether it be a product or a business idea?

They’re pitching to you either for a course project or for some extracurricular thing that they’re trying out. They want to run it by you.

Lubik: I try to keep an open mind about every idea because one of the things that you learn when you spend that time around entrepreneurs is that you haven’t heard of everything yet. So, because it doesn’t make sense to me in my frame of reference doesn’t mean that it’s not a good idea. That’s how I teach and how we teach here.

So, what I’m looking for, have they done their homework? Have they gone out to talk to experts? Have they asked all of the questions that I’ll ask them? So, rather than me making a decision, my job is to help them reach a decision whether they should stop and pivot, stop entirely, go full force, or go but there is a good chance that you can hit a wall.

So, my job is less of a stage gate and more of a guide to that process. The things I would ask is, “Who have you talked to?”, “Why do this?”, “Have you thought of this?”, “What about other markets?”, “What about other people?”, “If you changed something in the health field, have you tried to make life better for doctors? Did you make life harder for nurses?”, “Have you spoken to people who are experts?”

So, I spent a lot of time saying, “Why do you think that?” Withy expertise is in advanced materials and advanced technologies; I can tell you how those work. I can give you an opinion based on my experience that I think ‘that’ will work’, ‘I haven’t seen that work’, and ‘this is why this is setting off a yellow or red light for me.’”

But if it’s a case of ‘I want to find a way to use food that might otherwise be thrown away to keep it out of the landfill and also to do some good with it, whether it’s how to feed other people or whether it’s turn it into a certain product.’

My answer is going to be: “Talk through the logic with me, then I will point you at someone who is in that industry.” Because it’s important for us; not as entrepreneurs, but as coaches, to realize where the limitations of our knowledge are and rather than be the be-all and end-all of entrepreneurship to say, “Why?”

I can guide you through the process, to tackle the challenges and gather all of this information. I will put you in touch with everyone that I know who can validate your assumptions. That can help you validate whether you are on the right path.

But I can still be surprised.  I watched some students presenting and gave them some feedback

I thought, “I probably wouldn’t be going with that target market. They said, “We’re not in the class yet we sold 12.” I was like, “Fair enough, yes, I was wrong. I’m not the target market for this.”

That means my next job is to put them in touch with someone who might know more about that industry.

2. Jacobsen: So, we touched briefly now on what will be considered a reference frame for considering business ideas from students and not taking into account necessarily qualifying or disqualifying something based on the current reference frame, but taking into account would this potentially sell and keeping in mind that I might be wrong. 

What advice, in general, do you try to impart to students either through an example of yourself or through simply telling them a narrative, “This was a successful business. They did X, Y, and Z,” or saying, “This principal will get you pretty far in the innovation and entrepreneurship fields?”

Lubik: It’s a good question. So, in the classes that I teach, part of delivering the content is all about being like a business coach and saying, “Here’s a different framework that you can employ and here’s how it works.”

But one of the things that I try to do, and this comes back to always questioning whether you’re right or not, is I immediately say, “Here’s the place that I found that this doesn’t necessarily work and here’s how I’ve modified the models for myself.” What I’m hoping will happen when I do that, they realize that absolutely nothing should be taken as gospel and never questioned, even the models that we use to explore these things.

For example, there’s the business model canvas, which is like a map of the different parts of your business. It’s taken as a standard tool no matter where you go and where you’re doing entrepreneurship, where the business model canvas is incomplete in my opinion is that it doesn’t asks for your vision for your company.

I ask my students to immediately draw another box, which is, “Tell me, rather than I’m going to make a thing because it’s cool, what problem are you trying to solve? What does the world gain if you’re successful? What is the vision that’s going to drive you?”

So, that’s probably one of the most important things I can impart. Figure out why you’re doing what you’re doing, what drives you and figure out that you can question pretty much everything, and that you should because nothing is perfect and no one is infallible.

3. Jacobsen: Last question. Based on what we’ve discussed today, do you have any thoughts or feelings in conclusion?

Lubik: Yes, one of the most important places that we can invest in is to create a more competitive society as well as a more compassionate society. We should look at the big picture, to create more people with those entrepreneurial skills that have tolerance for ambiguity and a desire to use them to make things better.

Most of the world is made up of people who don’t think like you, problems are only getting more complex, and we need to have the humility to understand that most of those big problems take time to sort out and take A wide range of expertise working together.

I think that’s one of the reasons why as the world changes we need an education that can let us keep up- be it a university education or any type of education –

That to understand how to question yourself, to keep an open mind, to search out people who don’t think like you, to understand what we’ve done in the past, understand how ideas fit together, to understand how you might use cutting-edge knowledge and cutting-edge technology, and also if you can use the resources of the university – whether it’s their networks or their internal resources – to help you to make a difference in the world, whether it’s as an organization or an entrepreneur or social innovator.

The reason entrepreneurship is all about teamwork and impact at SFU is that we all need this mindset and we all need each other if we are going to tackle future opportunities and take on serious challenges.

4. Jacobsen: Thank you for your time, Dr. Lubik.

Lubik: Thank you for the enjoyable conversation.

Appendix I: Footnotes

[1] Director of Entrepreneurship, SFU Co-Champion, Technology Entrepreneurships Lecturer, Entrepreneurship & Innovation Concentration Coordinator, Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Beedie School of Business, Simon Fraser University.

[2] Individual Publication Date: September 22, 2019:; Full Issue Publication Date: January 1, 2020:


In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at


© Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing 2012-Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. All interviewees and authors co-copyright their material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: